3 excellent digital cameras

Sony RX100 digital camera.

These days, we take a lot of things for granted. You can read tomorrow's news today; you know what your friends are up to on the other side of the world; and every moment can be instantly captured with just a little tool in your pocket.

Today's smartphones are our digital pocket cameras. It's always there with you; it's quick and easy to use; and photo quality is reasonably good in most conditions. Most times it's a hit or miss, however, particularly if you're not using a top-of-the-class smartphone.

There's obviously a moment when you wished you could zoom in to the action, or get clear shots at night or in dimly lit areas. Perhaps a second camera could help conserve your smartphone battery and storage. Maybe you just want to take better photos.

If you find these limitations as annoyances to your photography work, then you probably still need a digital camera. If you're really serious about photography and want to take this hobby to the next level, your smartphone alone just won't cut it.

Of course, it's easier for anyone to say "just get a DSLR", but these days non-DSLR cameras have gotten so much better (and more affordable). Perhaps it's been quite a while since you've last glanced through a digital camera catalogue.

It's time to revisit the realm of digital cameras and see what you've missed. Here are among the best in their class.

Powerful compact: Sony RX100 Mark III

If you had to pick one compact digital camera right now, it would have to be the Sony RX100.

For just under B$1,000 (S$1,000), you get a pocketable point-and-shoot camera with a one-inch 20-megapixel CMOS sensor combined with a bright F1.8-2.8 24-70mm Carl Zeiss lens to deliver great looking shots every time.

So what's the deal with one-inch image sensors? Compact point-and-shoot cameras generally have tiny sensors, and so is the camera on your smartphone. The RX100 fits a larger sensor that's more sensitive in low-lit conditions, so you'd have no problems taking this camera out at night.

For a camera this powerful, normally you would have to go for larger and heavier "bridge" cameras such as Canon's G series offerings. Yet the RX100 is only 290g, and about the size of a bar of soap. It's a remarkable feat of engineering.

Now in its third iteration, the RX100 Mark III includes a pop-up electronic viewfinder and an improved articulating LCD preview screen that now rotates 180 degrees for selfies.

The built-in NFC and WiFi allows for a faster photo transfer to your smartphone. Great for Instagram fans.

Retro good looks: Fujifilm X30

Perhaps you find taking pictures with your smartphone isn't as classy as using a real camera, and the Sony RX100 may be a little too geeky for your taste.

If style is important to you as much as image quality, and you dig the retro look of classic film cameras, then look no further than the Fujifilm X30.

The X30 retro aesthetic is great to look at, particularly the black and silver model (the other option is an all-black finish).

Here's a camera that unleashes the "look, I'm serious in photography" in you when you hang it around your neck.

Instead of fumbling through on-screen pull-down menus, you control the camera with mainly its physical dials and buttons, just like the good old days of film photography. The +/e 3EV exposure compensation dial really come in handy in every photo-shoot.

Unlike most modern compact cameras, the Fuji's 28-112mm f/2.0-2.8 lens is a manual zoom design, meaning you'll need to physically turn the lens barrel in order to zoom in and out. In addition to the smooth-rotating focus ring, this is a faster and more precise way of framing your shot than an electronic zoom rocker.

Though not as large as Sony RX100's one-inch sensor, the X30's 12-megapixel 2/3-inch sensor still packs a punch. Fujifilm cameras are highly reputable for producing great looking images, and the X30 is a serious performer in Fuji's X series.

The X30 also takes great macro shots, thanks to its "Super Macro Mode" which allows you to focus on a subject at a distance of one centimetre.

DSLR killer: Olympus OMD-EM5

While you can equip your smartphone with interchangeable lens accessories, such as the Olloclip lens kit, it cannot beat the superior lenses of digital cameras.

If you're fond of interchangeable lenses in DSLR cameras, but don't want to lug around heavy gear, mirrorless system cameras are definitely for you.

Today, the market is already crowded with mirrorless cameras, but the Olympus OMD-EM5 stands out for its great overall package.

The OMD-EM5 has an attractive design with a more professional look, but it's no bigger than the smallest entry-level DSLR. Yet this camera is really well-built and can take on a semi-pro shooter. The EM5 is also weather-sealed.

The EM5 produces outstanding image quality, has excellent image stabilisation and very fast autofocus. It also has a great control layout (designed for a photographer in mind) and the electronic viewfinder is so good you won't miss optical viewfinders of the past.

At the heart of the EM5 lies a 16-megapixel micro four-thirds sensor that offers both higher dynamic range and lower noise.

But mirrorless cameras are really all about the lenses, and there's certainly no short of high quality lenses for the micro four-thirds camp for you to try. Pretty much every range is covered, from telephoto to ultra wide to primes, and you can build your arsenal of lenses for half the weight of DSLR lenses.

Though this camera is already two years old, it also means that the price should come down. There's a chance you'll get a great deal in camera stores and online.

Though Olympus will release a follow-up next year, the EM5 is still a technical marvel despite its age. Unlike smartphones, there's nothing wrong in using old gear in the camera world.

The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Brunei Times.